It was a very strange season for Jorge de la Rosa.
Jim Tracy gave the Mexican lefty the ball for Colorado's home opener, and de la Rosa backed up 2009's second half with arguably the best home opening performance in Rockies history. He tormented the Padres to the tune of just one hit and one walk while striking out nine in seven shutout innings. Moreover, only he permitted just two flyballs. It was the kind of performance that was to set the tone for the season, but de la Rosa never matched that performance (Ubaldo Jimenez only did three times in terms of Game Score [4/17, 5/31,10/2]).
Three starts later, "DLR" left the mound with a "torn flexor tendon band" in the middle finger of his pitching hand. The injury forced him to miss 74 days, a critical blow to a high impact player for a contending team. It took two starts to shake off the rust, and then we saw a Jorge de la Rosa we had never seen before - a strangely consistent one.
|2010 - Jorge De La Rosa||8-7||20||20||0||0||0||0||121.2||105||62||57||15||55||113||4.22||1.32|
In his remaining 14 starts, de la Rosa allowed 2 or 3 ER in 12 of them, the outliers being his final win (5 ER) and no-decision (1 ER) on the season. He went between 6 and 7 innings in all but two of those, falling a couple outs shy on August 7 and 13. The good Jorge/bad Jorge meme has timed out.
But it wasn't just consistency that de la Rosa showed anew. Armed with a groundball rate of 43.8% in his career, Jorge suddenly got 52.3% in 2010, a rate that would have placed him 13th in MLB. That's very good. He allowed hits on 28.1% on batted balls, well below his career low and average. On the flip side, his HR/FB was a career worst.
It is tough to make out what to expect from de la Rosa, who has yet to put together one clean, healthy, consistent season as a starter. While his overall production was a disappointment in 2010, at least 80% of that came solely from missed time as a starter.
With Ted Lilly signing soon after the season, Jorge de la Rosa had a chance to be the premier southpaw on the free agent market if he waited for Cliff Lee to sign. Instead, he eschewed higher offers elsewhere (Nationals GM Mike Rizzo thought he had de la Rosa signed) to sign for a hometown discount of sorts, re-upping with Colorado for a convoluted and brilliantly crafted 2-year $21.5million contract with a player option worth $11mil player option for 2013. He will earn $9.5mil in 2011 on top of his $1mil signing bonus.
One would think he could earn more than that in the current market, with the Yankees still in need of rotation help. But it was never about the money with de la Rosa, who is clearly comfortable with the Rockies' organization and pitching coach Bob Apodaca. He will fill the role of "#2 starter" on paper to begin the year, though I doubt anyone would complain if he slides back to #3 with another solid season from Jhoulys Chacin.